thing called Science, whatever it is, who actually owns it? Scientists? Technology companies? Industrial Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical companies? Investors? Shareholders? Governments? Universities? Philanthropists? Charities? Publishers? Joe Public? Or none of the above…?This
- The Scientists. At the front line of any scientific discovery is a scientist, from the lofty heights of the hallowed Professor to the lowly lab-rat or student, slaving away at the bench, scientists work on the front line Science. For most scientists, they make a living from their inventions, ideas and discoveries that they own. Science is their livelihood, © The Author(s).
- The Engineering and Technology companies. There’s a whole lot of Science behind commercial engineering and technology. Take Google’s software for example, the computer science and mathematics behind search technology is substantial, the PageRank algorithm is the basis for all that income generated from advertising, so not surprisingly it’s been patented. That’s Science, but you can’t see it, because it’s private not public.
- The Pharmaceutical companies. Have a look at any of the top ten best-selling drugs worldwide during 2006. Obviously, lots of Science and Biotechnology went into developing those lucrative cash-cows that pharma companies make their living from, while funding the effort to find the new drugs for the future. Science is how these businesses stay in business and keep their investors and shareholders happy, Science is how they make a profit, so they own it.
- The Governments. Lots of Science is funded by different governments around the globe, they’ve got a stake in it too. The American government spends the most, pouring billions of dollars into all kinds of basic and applied research.
- The Universities and Research Institutes. All that Science going on in different Universities and Research Institutes around the globe, they’ve got a claim on it too. Without these institutions, most Scientists wouldn’t have a place to work.
- The Philanthropists and Charities. It’s not just governments who fund science, charities foot the bill too. Now that Microsoft instigator Bill Gates has retired, he’ll be pumping all his billions of dollars into the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, funding a whole lot of Science. There’s plenty of other charities and foundations like it, big and small, the Wellcome Trust, Leverhulme, MacArthur Foundation, etc the list goes on and on.
- The Scientific Publishers. Look at any paper in a top-tier prestigious Scientific journal like Nature, Science or PNAS. You’ll see a big fat copyright sign © on pretty much every single one. © Nature Publishing Group, © American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), © The National Academy of Sciences, All Rights Reserved. It’s not just them either, © Elsevier B.V., © Oxford University Press and so on. You could be forgiven for (wrongly) thinking it’s the publishers who own the Science…
- The Public. Since we all benefit from it, and pay for it through our taxes, and charitable donations, we all own it. The public at large own science, as John Ziman once put it, “Science is Public Knowledge”. According to this definition, you could argue, if it’s not in the public domain, then it’s not Science. All that secret science that goes on inside commercial companies, behind closed doors? It’s not Science, until it’s public. That means YOU, yes you, Jo / Joe Public, everybody reading this owns Science.
- Nobody. Nobody owns Science, not even the public, Science is just there. The science of tomorrow, that’s not owned by anyone either, it’s just waiting to be discovered or invented…
But hey, what do I know? You don’t want to listen to me, I’m just a humble postdoc. If you would like to join the debate, and you are anywhere near Manchester, UK, you might be interested in “Who Owns Science?”, a public lecture and debate. Join Anna Ford chair a discussion lead by Nobel laureates John Sulston and Joseph Stiglitz on just who the hell is it who owns this crazy little thing called Science?
- Science is being held back by outdated laws: The question “who owns science?” is now crucial, The Times (of London), 2008-07-05
- Medical research is ‘hindered by out-of-date laws’ System is inefficient and corrupt, say scientists, The Times (of London), 2008-07-05
- John Sulston argues for open medicine: A Nobel Prize-winning scientist has hit out at what he terms the “moral corruption” of the medical industry, BBC News 2008-07-04
- Peter Murray-Rust  John Sulston calls for reform of IPR policy
- Daniel Cressey  The Great Beyond: The Manchester Manifesto
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